Valentines Heartbreaker

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Only four drivers raced their way into the Daytona 500 in Thursday’s Gatorade Duel At Daytona. Two more were able to fall back and make the event using Sunday’s qualifying time. Another took a past champion’s provisional.

That left 10 drivers who will be on the sideline when the green flag waves Sunday afternoon for the 50th running of The Great American Race.

Sterling Marlin was disappointed, but not upset, after coming up short. A 26-time participant in the Daytona 500, he missed the show after running in the race every year since 1983.

“This is part of it,” said Marlin, who finished second in 1991 before winning the event in 1994 and 1995. “It’s got to end sometimes.

“It was pretty good there at one point,” said Marlin, a two-time Daytona 500 winner. “We just tore a tire up on the right front. We just didn’t have enough camber in it - it wasn’t Goodyear’s fault. We wore the left front out. Then, the jack dropped on our last stop, the money stop. I went out dead last. For some reason, this car won’t accelerate. It takes two or three laps to get it going. The rest is history.”

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott will also be on the sidelines, with Kurt Busch taking the past champion's provisional.

“I don’t think there are words that can describe it, but that’s life,” said the winner of the 1985 and 1987 events. “There will be days like this. I’m just bummed out.”

Stanton Barrett nearly pulled the shocker of Speedweek. Gridded 26th – last – in the second Duel, the second-generation driver rocketed to ninth in the opening circuits. Then, disappointment struck.

“We knew we had a great car yesterday in practice,” said Barrett, who was accompanied by his father, NASCAR’s original Skoal Bandit, Stan Barrett. “We got the car where we needed it. I got shuffled back, but I figured I would be patient and I knew I could get back up there.”

When Jacques Villeneuve spun, Barrett was collected in the incident, crashing the NOS Engergy Drink/Ski Motorsports Chevrolet.

“I ran hard, and it was fun while it lasted,” Barrett said. “I tried to check up, but I had too much momentum. It wasn’t meant to be. I got great sponsors and great support. We’ll keep plugging away.”

Villeneuve said he was fighting a loose car all the way.

“Too loose,” said the 1997 Formula One World Champion. “I lost it on my own. I almost lost it several times but saved it. Then, when they got three wide, I couldn’t get it back.”

Boris Said took a double disappointment. He finished 19th overall – and fifth among the non-qualified drivers – in the opening Duel. Then, when John Andretti passed David Reutimann on the final lap of the second Duel, Reutimann took the second and final qualifying position by speed - leaving Said on the outside looking in.

“I was trying to pass people, and every time I pulled out with a run, nobody went with me,” the road racing veteran said. “I kept getting hung out. I kept trying it, and I kept getting hung out. I’m disappointed, after a lot of people you help along the way road race, they forget. I’m not going to forget.”

While Brian Vickers raced his way into the Daytona 500 after spinning in the early laps, Red Bull Toyota teammate AJ Allmendinger missed qualifying for the Daytona 500. He was the highest-finishing non-qualifier in the opening Duel.

“I couldn’t have stayed out (on the last caution), the tire would have blowed,” Allmendinger said. “We missed it. Too tight the whole time. We were in the hunt, but unfortunately, everybody was running the top line. I was better on the bottom, but when I’d go down there, nobody would go with me. That put us at a big disadvantage.”

Patrick Carpentier was in the hunt for the transfer slot until he hit the wall with three laps remaining in the second Duel.

"I was hoping it was going to last to the end but it didn't," Carpentier said. "Now, we'll go back to Fontana and keep digging."

Instead of his name, Carl Long had the word “Longshot” painted over the door of his Millstar/Rhino’s Energy Drink Dodge for Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona.

Long was one of 18 drivers battling for four available starting positions in the Daytona 500. Gridded 27th and last in the first of two 150-mile races, Long needed to finish among the top two of nine drivers in the first qualifying heat race.

Long worked his way up to 14th. Then, he fell back and got lapped. He was in a position to get the lucky dog, but the caution didn’t wave until the closing laps – and the NASCAR beneficiary is waived during the final 10 circuits.

“Usually, there’s a lot a lot of wrecks – at least two or three,” Long said. “It didn’t happened for us until we were past the 10-lap window. The car was pretty balanced. We just lost the draft out there, and we had no body to work with. We were hoping to get that caution, put on four new tires and have a chance to get through it. But when, you lose the draft like that, we didn’t have enough.”

Also missing the Daytona 500 were Ken Schrader and Eric McClure.

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